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N A T I O N

Lok Sabha Session
Walkout over Satyam issue

New Delhi, February 13
The last session of the 14th Lok Sabha today saw its first walkout on the Satyam issue, with the Left and the Telegu Desam Party (TDP) members accusing the Central and state governments of indulging in cover-up in this biggest fraud in India’s corporate history.

‘Time for burial of Parliament’
New Delhi: Anguished over the continued disruption of the Lok Sabha proceedings by the Opposition, Speaker Somnath Chatterjee today said the time had come for giving Parliament a decent burial.

Rail Budget
Amritsar on bullet train radar
New Delhi, February 13
Amritsar has been kept on the bullet train radar. Railway Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav announced this while presenting the interim Railway Budget here today. He also said Railways will invest Rs 2,30,000 crore during the 11th Plan period to improve its rolling stock and increase productivity.

We’ll surpass all targets this fiscal: Lalu
New Delhi, February 13
Conceding that growth in freight loading fell in October and November Railways Minister Lalu Prasad today said he expects to cross the budgeted freight and passenger revenue targets this fiscal.





EARLIER STORIES



A humorist at work
New Delhi, February 13
When Sonia Gandhi and LK Advani smile together, it has to be Lalu Yadav at work. The quintessential humorist was at his dramatic best today when he ensured a smooth sailing for his interim railway budget, taking both the government and the opposition along, his winning line being “Raah ke har shakhs ko lekar chale hain saath hum; ik naye andaz se phir ik nai manzil ki or”.

Disappointing: Oppn
New Delhi, February 13
Even as the Congress party, leading the ruling UPA government, patted itself on the back for ‘giving the sixth populist Railway Budget’, the opposition BJP and the CPM termed it as disappointing and directioneless.

Hike in judges’ salaries
Speaker pulls up govt for showing haste
New Delhi, February 13
Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee today pulled up the government for the manner in which it brought about an ordinance in the matter pertaining to the salary hike of high court and Supreme Court judges. The government had issued an ordinance this January even as the bill concerning the matter was pending for the consideration of the parliamentary standing committee.

EU nations keen on defence deals with India
Bangalore, February 13
Global aerospace and defence company EADS has offered India a long-term defence and strategic partnership, and production facilities here yesterday. Bernhard Gerwert, CEO of Military Air Systems, an integrated business unit of EADS Defence and Security, that manufactures the Eurofighter and the Eurocopter, yesterday invited India to make it a partner in the growth of Indian aerospace and defence companies.

Kasab’s custody extended till Feb 26
Mumbai, February 13
The police custody of Mohammad Ajmal Amir Kasab, the lone surviving terrorist of the 26/11 terror strikes, has been extended till February 26. A magistrate’s court here remanded Kasab to the police custody for his involvement in a blast that took place in a taxi at Vile Parle.

Muthalik held, Sene withdraws protests
Bangalore, February 13
The Karnataka police today cracked down on Sri Ram Sene outfit ahead of the Valentine Day tomorrow arresting its chief and over 150 activists after which the right wing group withdrew its protests against the celebration of the lovers’ day.

Tarlochan bats for ex-servicemen
New Delhi, February 13
Taking up the cause of ex-servicemen who had recently returned their medals to the government protesting against the non-implementation of their demand for “one rank, one pension” (OROP), Rajya Sabha member Tarlochan Singh on Friday criticised the government for not paying heed to their rightful demands.





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Lok Sabha Session
Walkout over Satyam issue
Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 13
The last session of the 14th Lok Sabha today saw its first walkout on the Satyam issue, with the Left and the Telegu Desam Party (TDP) members accusing the Central and state governments of indulging in cover-up in this biggest fraud in India’s corporate history.

They later walked out of the House after discussions in the matter were dropped from the government’s business for the day despite being listed earlier. The development followed a request from the BJP, which wanted the matter to be listed separately and not clubbed with important business like the interim Railway Budget. “We want a full-fledged discussion all for this case,” BJP leader Sushma Swaraj said.

The government, on its part, remained on the defensive all day, and assured the House that it was now fully armed to detect Satyam-like frauds. “We have put in place a foolproof system to monitor close to four lakh applications received annually at the office of registrar of companies. This wasn’t humanly possible earlier,” Union Corporate Affairs Minister Prem Chand Gupta told the Lok Sabha; he termed Satyam as a stand-alone case and pleaded against its politicisation, but without success.

CPM’s Rup Chand Pal accused the Centre of a cover up on the insistence of senior functionaries and said Ramalinga Raju, the scamster of Satyam, was in protective custody, enjoying the five-star luxury. The Left also insisted to know the results of the investigations — a request the government promptly declined, saying it would be detrimental to the case.

The minister, however, admitted that preliminary investigations into the Satyam fraud had revealed interconnections between Maytas Infrastructure and Maytas Properties, and Satyam’s movement had surfaced earlier when the Ketan Parikh scandal was exposed. “The NDA was in power then,” Gupta rushed to add, reiterating that Satyam was an aberration and not a general practice in India’s corporate sector. “Our IT sector is still very well-respected in the world,” he said, assuring Parliament of strict action against the guilty.

The House seemed hardly satisfied and awaited a discussion until 3 pm when Deputy Speaker Charanjit Atwal informed the LS that the matter had been advanced following a request by LK Advani.

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‘Time for burial of Parliament’

New Delhi: Anguished over the continued disruption of the Lok Sabha proceedings by the Opposition, Speaker Somnath Chatterjee today said the time had come for giving Parliament a decent burial. “You have killed the institution in the past one year. Let us have cremation of Parliament in the 14th Lok Sabha,” Chatterjee said as the BJP-Akali members disrupted the Question Hour on the day of the presentation of the interim Rail Budget for 2009-10. — UNI

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Rail Budget
Amritsar on bullet train radar
Girja Shankar Kaura
Tribune News Service

Highlights

  • Dibrugarh Town-Chandigarh Express (Weekly), Nizamuddin-Bangalore via Kacheguda Rajdhani Express (Tri-weekly), Jammu Tawi-Darbhanga Garib Rath Express (Weekly) and Varanasi-Jammu Tawi Superfast (Daily) among 43 new trains
  • Feasibility studies for bullet trains
  • 14 pc rise in passenger income
  • Rs 70,000 cr surplus ploughed back to improve efficiency
  • Dedicated Delhi-Mumbai, Ludhiana-Kolkata freight corridors
  • Kolkata Metro to be expanded
  • Freight loading targeted at 910 MT.
  • Passenger traffic expected to go up by 7 pc.
  • Railways to create record surplus of Rs 90,000 cr.
  • Gross traffic receipts estimated at Rs 93159 cr.

New Delhi, February 13
Amritsar has been kept on the bullet train radar. Railway Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav announced this while presenting the interim Railway Budget here today. He also said Railways will invest Rs 2,30,000 crore during the 11th Plan period to improve its rolling stock and increase productivity. This amount “is almost three times the sum allocated in the 10th Plan,” said Lalu.

In the wake of his visit to Japan, Germany and France to see the functioning of high-speed trains, Prasad said action is underway for examining feasibility of running bullet trains between Delhi-Amritsar, Ahmedabad-Mumbai-Pune, Hyderabad-Vijayawada-Chennai, Chennai-Bangalore-Ernakulam and Howrah -Haldia. He said action would soon also be taken for conducting pre-feasibility study to run bullet train between Delhi and Patna. Surveys for 14 new lines, gauge conversion of three and doubling of eight railway lines has also been proposed.

“The objective is to increase the transport capacity of the Railways and reduce the unit cost of operations,” he added. Lalu said the investment outlays have been stepped up from Rs 13,394 crore in 2003-04 to Rs 36,773 crore in 2008-09. While pointing out that the financial transformation of the Indian Railways — which registered a huge turnover this fiscal — was different from the private sector that resorts to “anti-people measures,” the minister said the Railways would be completing the work of 4,900 km of gauge conversion, 1800 kmsof doubling and laying 1,100 km of new lines over five years.

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We’ll surpass all targets this fiscal: Lalu
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 13
Conceding that growth in freight loading fell in October and November Railways Minister Lalu Prasad today said he expects to cross the budgeted freight and passenger revenue targets this fiscal.

This would be achieved, despite the economic slowdown, he added. “We are not only hopeful but confident that the budget targets for passenger and goods earnings set for this fiscal will be surpassed,” the minister said,

“There was a steep reduction in iron ore for export and container traffic. The growth rate of steel traffic also reflected a decrease. This resulted in a decrease in freight loading and freight earnings in the months of October and November,” Lalu added. He said the situation, however, was improving, with freight earnings increasing to Rs 380.93 billion by the end of December 2008, registering a growth of 14 percent.

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A humorist at work
Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 13
When Sonia Gandhi and LK Advani smile together, it has to be Lalu Yadav at work. The quintessential humorist was at his dramatic best today when he ensured a smooth sailing for his interim railway budget, taking both the government and the opposition along, his winning line being “Raah ke har shakhs ko lekar chale hain saath hum; ik naye andaz se phir ik nai manzil ki or”.

The Union Railway Minister had enough winners for his entire budget speech that came dotted with well-chosen, well-timed couplets to prevent the build-up of political storm and keep the atmosphere in the House light. The result: There were minor rumblings in the Lok Sabha as Lalu sang his way through the railway budget, promising comfort to one and all.

He didn’t even let the aggressive BJP go too far with criticism. So when the party raised some pitch for a Garib Rath from their leader LK Advani’s constituency Gandhinagar, Lalu quipped: “Thoda dhiraj to dhariye na. Woh bhi hoga (Keep patience; that, too, will happen).

On the one hand he kept the BJP bridled with assurances of clarifying their doubts in his reply, on the other he never lost sight of the “fastidious” Left. At one point, Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee was prompted to ask Lalu to address the Chair in his left rather than looking towards the right where CPM leader Basudeb Acahria was seated.

“You seem to be only addressing the concerns of chairman of the parliamentary standing committee on railways,” the Speaker joked (referring to Acharia’s concerns); he also advised Lalu “not to get diverted”.

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Disappointing: Oppn
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 13
Even as the Congress party, leading the ruling UPA government, patted itself on the back for ‘giving the sixth populist Railway Budget’, the opposition BJP and the CPM termed it as disappointing and directioneless.

“We are entitled to be self-congratulatory without being complacent,” said Congress spokesman Abhishek Singhvi, while reacting to the Railway Budget. However, BJP’s Shahnawaz Husain said ‘the budget was nothing but jugglery of words.’ He also dismissed the proposed two per cent reduction in rail fare as a mere drop in the ocean, referring to recent market recession and drastic cut in fuel prices.

BJP parliamentary party spokesperson Sushma Swaraj, while referring to Lalu’s remarks about turning the Railways from a slow elephant to a sprint-footed cheetah, said, “Surely Lalu has turned the Railways from a vegetarian elephant into a man-eater, the way he is stealthily attacking the pocket of the aam aadmi.”

The CPM parliamentary party leader Basudeb Acharia also criticised the Railway Minister for ‘introducing hikes through the backdoor.’

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Hike in judges’ salaries
Speaker pulls up govt for showing haste
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 13
Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee today pulled up the government for the manner in which it brought about an ordinance in the matter pertaining to the salary hike of high court and Supreme Court judges. The government had issued an ordinance this January even as the bill concerning the matter was pending for the consideration of the parliamentary standing committee.

Just when Union Law Minister HR Bhardwaj today presented in the Lok Sabh the government’s explanatory statement giving reasons for this immediate legislation, the Speaker expressed his utter dismay on the haste shown, and almost put a loaded question to the government as to what the exact reasons behind the enhancement of judges’ salaries were.

"I will like to read your explanation. Heavens would not have fallen had you waited for a fortnight. I hope I have expressed the disapproval of the entire House on this issue," said the Speaker.

The Speaker’s reference is significant, considering that ordinances, under the constitution, are meant to be issued only to meet emergency situations after obtaining the consent of the President.

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EU nations keen on defence deals with India
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

Bangalore, February 13
Global aerospace and defence company EADS has offered India a long-term defence and strategic partnership, and production facilities here yesterday.

Bernhard Gerwert, CEO of Military Air Systems, an integrated business unit of EADS Defence and Security, that manufactures the Eurofighter and the Eurocopter, yesterday invited India to make it a partner in the growth of Indian aerospace and defence companies.

Four European countries - Germany, UK, Spain and Italy, back the EADS bid. The senior-most members of the air forces of these countries and a few diplomats attended the event yesterday.

On being asked as to how these EU countries could match the growing Indo-US relations or long standing Indo-Russian relations, Gerwert said UK and Spain were also working to have some defence deals with India. Germany has a defence aerospace cooperation agreement with India.

Separately, the visiting French Defence Minister Jean-Marie Bockel subtly forward put the fact that India was vying for a seat in the UN Security Council.

He told The Tribune that France gave great importance to India and its future role in context of a geo-political scenario like the enlargement of the G-8 or G-20 group of countries.

“France has always backed India’s claim for a seat in the UN Security Council,” Bockel said.

He quoted French President Nicholas Sarkozy as saying that the President attached great importance to Indo-France ties.

France is offering technology transfer for surface-to-air-missiles and the Rafale, a state-of-the art fighter, among other aspects.

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Kasab’s custody extended till Feb 26

Mumbai, February 13
The police custody of Mohammad Ajmal Amir Kasab, the lone surviving terrorist of the 26/11 terror strikes, has been extended till February 26. A magistrate’s court here remanded Kasab to the police custody for his involvement in a blast that took place in a taxi at Vile Parle.

Kasab was not produced in the court for security reasons.

He has been in the police custody since his arrest on the night of November 26 and booked in 12 cases by the Mumbai police. Meanwhile, the Pakistan government registered a case against Kasab.

Media reports said the charges were filed against Kasab and 13 other persons on the basis of a Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) probe into the Mumbai attacks.

Islamabad ordered the FIA probe after India alleged that the Mumbai attacks were plotted in Pakistan. — ANI

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Muthalik held, Sene withdraws protests

Pink ‘chaddis’ pour in

Hubli: Sri Rama Sene, which had threatened to protest celebration of Valentine’s Day, today received four boxes of ‘pink chaddi’. Displaying the ‘chaddis’ at a press conference here, Sene activist Krishna Gandgalekar said the parcels were received from Mumbai, Punjab, Haryana and from many other places as a mark of protest.—Agencies

Bangalore, February 13
The Karnataka police today cracked down on Sri Ram Sene outfit ahead of the Valentine Day tomorrow arresting its chief and over 150 activists after which the right wing group withdrew its protests against the celebration of the lovers’ day.

In a state-wide drive, the police took Muthalik into custody on the outskirts of Gulbarga, its co-convenor Prasad Attavar in Mangalore and more than 150 activists in Bangalore.

In Mangalore, Sene office bearers, Subhash Padil, Jeevan Neermarga, Lohith Adyan and five others were arrested soon after they addressed a press meet where they announced that they were dropping plans to “marry off couples forcefully”. In Bangalore, the police have nabbed more than 150 suspects and are continuing the arrests, besides deploying an 18,000-strong police force on security. — PTI

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Tarlochan bats for ex-servicemen
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 13
Taking up the cause of ex-servicemen who had recently returned their medals to the government protesting against the non-implementation of their demand for “one rank, one pension” (OROP), Rajya Sabha member Tarlochan Singh on Friday criticised the government for not paying heed to their rightful demands.

Singh raised the issue during the Zero Hour and said that while several provisions had been made for other government services like the IAS, the government was not paying enough attention to the rightful needs of the soldiers of the country.

He said this attitude was adversely affecting those serving the nation.

Armed forces veterans and relatives of those who were awarded medals posthumously held a demonstration on February 9 before returning their honour to the President-the supreme commander of the armed forces. The ex-soldiers’ demand under the OROP was: “Two individuals retiring after equal length of service and from the same rank must get equal pension.”

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BRIEFLY

SRK’s house attacked
Mumbai:
Mannat, the multi-storeyed bungalow owned by actor Shah Rukh Khan in suburban Bandra here, was attacked by some miscreants on Friday, the police said. As per a complaint, some persons arrived on three motorbikes and threw a burning bottle of kerosene inside the compound and sped away. No one was injured in the incident. — TNS

Omar, Mehbooba quit LS
NEW DELHI
: Chief Minister Omar Abdullah and PDP president Mehbooba Mufti have resigned from their membership of the Lok Sabha, following their election to the state Assembly. Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee today accepted their resignations along with those of BJP member Kiran Maheshwari, Haribhau Rathore and AS Bangarappa. — TNS

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